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Fisheries

Permit stacking discussion continues at BOF

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KDLG News
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The state Board of Fisheries appears poised to deliberate Bristol Bay permit stacking proposals this weekend.

Alaska’s Board of Fisheries spent much of Friday morning in the committee of the whole discussing permit stacking. The board is expected to vote this weekend on three proposals that address permit stacking for drifters, and a handful that address stacking for set-netters. 

During discussion, the room was divided between those that want one drifter to be allowed to hold two permits, and those who believe the fishery should operate on a one-permit to one-person rule.

During the back and forth, Joseph Gogul brought up a not often publicly mentioned problem he attributes to not being able to stack permits … the under the table dealings that move permits around each season.

“Whether its fraudulent medical paperwork to get their permit transferred, whether it’s somebody owning multiple permits and trusting somebody to hold the permit for them with the plan of giving it back, things of that nature," he said. "So allowing a single person to one two permits is going to remove a large black market that already takes place in the Bristol Bay area.”

One of the proposals would allow two drift permit holders to fish on one boat using 300 fathoms of gear, a hundred more than is currently allowed on what’s known as a D-Boat.   The D-boat regulation itself, which went in after the 2006 Board cycle, is coming under criticism itself. Drifter Gary Cline of Dillingham was among those who said he supports D-Boats but does not support allowing them to fish any more gear.

“I personally support the dual operation, the existing regulations," Cline said. "I look at it as an apprenticeship program for people trying to enter the fishery. It gives them an extra share and percentage, allowing them to save up money – if they want to buy into the fishery, may not afford a permit and a boat at the same time, so it allows them to learn from an experienced captain with an extra percentage to save up to buy a boat when they feel comfortable.”

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Credit KDLG News
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Dillingham's Susie Jenkins-Brito and Katherine Carscallen talk to Warner Lew while he holds Jenkins-Brito's younger daughter.

Dillingham’s Susie Jenkins-Brito said she wants to see the current practice of allowing two permit holders to fish together on one boat to continue, without changing the current regulations to allow one person to hold two permits.

“My husband and I jointly have one permit in our family still," she said. "At some point, we’d like to buy a permit for one of our daughters when they’re old enough and have the opportunity for one of them to learn onboard with my husband. I don’t think that allowing one person to own and operate two permits in their name is going to be equitable. Nor do I think that is the economic solution to where our fisheries are headed.”

The permit stacking proposals would only allow the use of 200 fathoms of gear. Drifter Abe Williams, of Anchorage, authored one of those, and says he could also support a sunset provision for drift permit stacking.

“I am going to emphasize the importance of creating value in the driftnet fishery and the fishery as a whole," Williams said. "As was stated a minute ago, these proposals here do just what was stated. By the benefit of one person owning two permits and getting the complements of gear, we leave 200 fathoms of gear on the beach, which lallows other opportunity and other fish to be harvested by those that are participating in fishery.”

The board is also considering proposals to allow setnet permit stacking, after it allowed set net permit stacking to sunset during the last board of fish cycle in 2012. Much of the stakeholder opinion was split between those who say it will allow their family business to stay viable, and those who argue it lead to more set net permits leaving the Bay.The proposals were largely supported by Egegik fishermen, and opposed by others, both set-netters and the drift fleet. One proposal would also allow something more similar to the D-boat program, which some described as a sort of compromise. No consensus came up on that idea during discussions, either.

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